I’ll be honest: when I wrote last year’s post on the first year of Dystopian Dance Party, I had my doubts over whether I’d be able to keep up my enthusiasm for another 12 months. Fortunately, however, that hasn’t been a problem. Don’t get me wrong, we still have approximately zero detectable audience, and I still spend way too much time on this thing considering it doesn’t improve my livelihood in any way; but I’m proud of what we’ve done, and I feel like we’re on the right track. I started this website for purely selfish reasons: to put writing by me (and sometimes Callie) online that would almost certainly be unpublishable anywhere else. We’ve been doing it for two years now–and, as unseemly as the idea of a 40-year-old man running his own pop culture blog might sound, I can actually see myself doing it for a long time in the future. So if you stumbled upon this page searching for STD pictures (which I’m convinced is still the source of at least 60% of our traffic), consider this my invitation for you to stick around: here are 12 of the best posts we’ve made since our first anniversary, hopefully the first of many.
1. “Je Suis Kanye: The Kanye West Oeuvre – Part 4: Self-Conscious (2003-2004)”
(May 20, 2015)
I started writing my series on the Kanye West oeuvre just over 13 months ago, with the idea that I’d grind out a few chapters each month, wrapping up just in time to cover Yeezy’s seventh solo album–which, in those simpler times, was still supposed to be coming out in 2015 and was still titled So Help Me God. Well, we’re now rapidly approaching the middle of 2016;
So Help Me God SWISH WAVES The Life of Pablo sort of came out in February, but has now been reconceptualized as a “living, evolving art project” with no clear end point in sight; and, in fact, Kanye has already announced an eighth album, which will allegedly drop this summer (let’s just say, at this point, I’ll believe that when I see it). Oh yeah, and my most recent post in the series was about 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so I still have at least three more posts to go. Basically, I’ll never finish this fucking project.
But I will highlight last May’s chapter on The College Dropout as a key turning point in its development. For one thing, this was the one where I finally said “fuck it” and stopped trying to keep my posts short; more importantly, however, it’s also where I developed what has become the key thesis of my analysis of Kanye’s work, his status as a rapper who is neither “conscious” nor commercial, but a self-aware, “self-conscious” hybrid of the two. I don’t know if it’s the strongest chapter I’ve written yet–I’m much too exhausted to even think about that at this point–but it’s definitely the most thematically crucial.
2. “Jheri Curl Cinema: The Last Dragon (1985)“
(June 19, 2015)
Like I said last time, I love all things Jheri Curl June; but I can’t just list the whole event every year, so allow me to highlight the new feature we introduced last year: Jheri Curl Cinema, a look at some of the films closely associated with our favorite wet, silky brand of 1980s R&B. This post on the Berry Gordy-produced cult classic The Last Dragon is especially close to my heart, because it also ended up serving as my personal eulogy for the film’s female lead: Denise Matthews, a.k.a. Vanity. Matthews passed away this February, of longstanding complications from renal failure due to years of cocaine abuse; but Vanity, the only side of her I’d ever known, had obviously died a lot earlier than that. I’m glad Matthews found some peace in the decades before her passing, renouncing her wild former life and dedicating herself to religious pursuits that seemed to give her a sense of purpose. As for Vanity, this is my last word on an important, and deliciously camp, ’80s pop icon.
3. “Donald Trump is the Presidential Candidate We Deserve”
(August 7, 2015)
Okay, so a few of my friends took issue with this title, so let me clarify: nobody I know personally (and very few people in general) actually deserves a Trump candidacy. And I’ll also admit that, almost nine months later, with Trump still a front-runner for the Republican nomination, I come off as a little glib in my treatment of what has become the chillingly real possibility of Donald Trump in the White House. But my basic point still stands: Trump is the monster our electoral-entertainment complex created, and needs to be treated as the logical outgrowth of our broken democracy, not an aberration. Let’s hope it doesn’t take four years in office (or, shudder, eight) for us to realize that.
4. “Dystopian Dance Mix Vol. 14: Statutory Rock”
(August 10, 2015)
It’s always hard for me to pick just one Dystopian Dance Mix to highlight each year, because I bust my ass on all of them and I’m always reasonably proud of how they turn out. So I’ll defer to Callie, who says this is the funniest one I’ve written–insomuch as statutory rape is ever “funny,” of course. This has also been a popular one in terms of web traffic–mostly because rock stars can’t stop being shitty to teenage girls. So, thanks, I guess?
5. Dystopian Halloween Party (The Whole Thing)
Man, if you’d told me this time last year that my previous, weak-ass attempt at a month of seasonal content would end up becoming one of the most satisfying things for me on this blog in 2015, I would have burst into tears and told you to stop mocking me. But last year’s Dystopian Halloween Party was everything I wanted it to be in 2014 and failed to execute: another tribute to the bonkers Halloween episodes of Detroit local dance show The Scene; a writeup on underrated country Gothic group Blanche; not one, but two guides to the best and worst of perennial Halloween band KISS; posts on classic video games from the Castlevania and Resident Evil series; a pretty damn good Dystopian Dance Mix of songs about monsters; and even the first episode of our podcast, dedicated to the cult classic film Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. I told myself before last October that if I couldn’t make Dystopian Halloween Party work this time, I’d axe it for good; now, I’m actively looking forward to doing it again next year.
6. “Of Monsters and Men: Bill Cosby, Lou Reed, and the Delicate Balance between Rape Culture and Call-Out Culture”
(November 30, 2015)
Everything on this blog is personal, in the sense that I post whatever the fuck I want; but this post was especially personal–not only insomuch as it dealt with my own history of mental illness and emotional problems, but also because it came out of a burning question that I somehow had to answer for myself: as I put it, “why does the shift in public opinion about Cosby feel to me like a victory, while the corresponding one for Reed feels like, at best, a missed opportunity for empathy and understanding?” I know that, for some people, the answers I came up with were not–could never be–satisfactory. And the issue of famous men abusing their power, especially with women, is one that I continue to grapple with–most recently with the discussion, after the death of David Bowie, of his troubling relationships with teenage groupies including Lori Maddox. But I still like this essay, if only because when I look around the Internet I see far too few nuanced perspectives on this highly-charged issue. My perspective is far from perfect, but it is, at least, more complex than the usual sensationalized “hot takes.”
7. “Ebenezer Scrooge: Fashion Icon”
(December 23, 2015)
I was hesitant to declare December a full-on Dystopian Holiday Party (though I probably will when it rolls around this year), but I still turned out some pretty solid content for Xmas, if I do say so myself. This post in particular, tracking the fashion evolution of Scrooge in film and television adaptations of A Christmas Carol, is definitely the dumbest thing I’d written since the Songs of Ice and Fire Dance Mix, which I consider a point of pride. You can definitely expect to see at least one more of these in the future. You’ve been warned.
8. “R.I.P. Lemmy: Killed by Death”
(December 29, 2015)
Like I said last year, Callie doesn’t write for Dystopian Dance Party all that frequently, but I always like it when she does. Her main contribution this year came under unusually somber circumstances: the death of Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister on December 28, 2015. The piece itself is great, though: heartfelt and funny, and all the more impressive because it was written a matter of hours after we got the news of Lemmy’s passing. Sadly, you’re probably going to see a lot more of this obituary-style content on Dystopian Dance Party in the coming years; but if we must lose our heroes, I’m glad we at least have a space with which to mourn them.
9. “Dystopian Listening Party Podcast: David Bowie, 1947-2016”
(January 15, 2016)
I just wish we didn’t have to mourn them quite so frequently. Less than two weeks after we lost Lemmy, of course, we also lost David Bowie–who passed away, like Lemmy, just a few days after his 69th birthday. This made our already-planned podcast on Bowie’s work a more emotional affair then expected. I’m happy to report, however, that it ended up being our best podcast yet. We got off to (and arguably are still getting off to) a bit of a rocky start, but this is the one with which we found our feet and produced something we could both be proud of. I’m glad we were at least able to get it together in time to give Bowie a proper tribute.
10. “Yes, I’m a Witch: The Dystopian Dance Party Guide to Yoko Ono”
(February 18, 2016)
One of my favorite new recurring features on the site is the Dystopian Dance Party Guide, a feature that gives me the chance to briefly summarize the highs and lows of an entire artistic body of work (musical so far, but soon to expand into other forms of media). And my favorite so far–other than the aforementioned KISS ones, which together probably constitute the funniest thing I’ve ever written–is this guide to the musical career of Yoko Ono: an unjustly overlooked, unnecessarily despised figure who happens to be responsible for some of the most radical and forward-thinking pop music of the last 50 years. I learned a lot about Yoko in researching and writing this piece, and that’s honestly my favorite part: these posts give me the chance to deepen my personal knowledge of artists for whom I’d previously only scratched the surface.
11. “Remembering the Great Lost Hip-Pop RPG of the Early ’90s: Super House Party RPG”
(April 1, 2016)
For whatever reason, it’s become a tradition every April for us to dig up some outlandish and highly suspect history of the House Party film franchise. Last year, we tackled the movies themselves–particularly the little-remembered latter-day entries House Party 3: House Party with a Vengeance and House Party 4: The Last Party—while this year, we’re getting even more obscure with a tantalizing glimpse at Super House Party RPG: a never-released, Japan-only Super Famicom RPG loosely based on the first two films. And if that sounds too good to be true, well, just wait until you see what we have planned for next year.
12. “Revisiting Zack Snyder’s Watchmen in the Post-Batman v Superman Era”
(April 5, 2016)
I’ve sort of low-key wanted to write an apologia for Zack Snyder‘s 2009 Watchmen film ever since the movie came out and I realized I was apparently one of a small minority (or perhaps a very, very silent majority) who didn’t despise it. As it turned out, I got my chance in the wake of another Snyder superhero film that I didn’t hate as much as everybody else seemed to: this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. With this spur-of-the-moment essay, I tried to make my case that, while Snyder is indeed the definition of style over substance, he isn’t quite the numbskull his detractors like to claim. Whether I was successful is ultimately for you to decide; but I’m reasonably happy with the results, which allowed me to write about film again while also dipping my toes in the comics-criticism pool. Expect more of both in the next 12 months.